Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Learning Styles

I recently finished writing my first free-lance article. It's not the first one I started, mind you, just the first one that I completed. It should be interesting to see the response from the publication I submitted it to. It can take weeks for a response and months - 1 year for publication! That doesn't deter my enthusiasm. I'm happy that I finished something that was important to me.

In the last year and a half as we've been working with my oldest child along with his therapists I've been collecting information on learning styles. He has an auditory processing delay and exhibited many behavioral problems. From speech therapy, to coping mechanisms, to temper tantrums, to transitioning, to routine, to so many different issues for a child I learned that parents need to be aware of learning methods and how to reach their child through them.

Most childhood negative behavior is depicted as a behavioral "problem." There's a huge realm of ideas on what parents are to do in response to negative behaviors from first response discipline to completely ignoring the behavior.

In working with my son, paralleling what his therapists were doing, I realized the intensity of the involvement of other people in my self esteem as a parent. See, I wasn't responding to my child how other people felt I should. Suddenly I'm the subject of criticism, especially since my son's behavior is horrendous and what am I doing? Nothing apparent to address the behavior and to most of your peers, that is unacceptable.

What I want parents to start focusing on, as they are challenged, frustrated, enraged, embarrassed, and pushed to the limits by their child's behavior, is their child. Yes, you have to have limits, expectations, rules, and routine. You also need to know how to teach that to your child. Before you respond to the behavior, respond to the child.

Someone could have very easily looked at my son as an out of control, undisciplined kid. You can't tell by looking at a child what is going on in their mind, which is a huge factor in a child's behavior. How does your child process the information of what's going on around them? We learn by a combination of styles: verbal, aural, physical, visual, and logic. Logic is something that I personally believe kicks in past the preschool years. I'm sure kids use it to some degree early on, but I think everyone with a toddler will agree that more often than not their toddler things that the rules of logic don't apply to them. I'm not certain that my 5 year old believes that gravity still applies to him all the time!

When you start thinking of your child in terms of them processing visually, verbally, aurally, and physically it changes your outlook on their behavior. Your child's main learning type may not be aural - spoken directions might not be the best way to tap in to their little mind. See, you may have told them that they are not to throw silverware on the floor after you have set the table. But the verbal direction may not outweigh the need to learn the physical aspect of what happens when the fork is thrown on the floor. Every time he throws it it bounces difference, what if he drops it, what if he does more than one at once, what if he throws it up in the air instead of down.

I personally don't believe that a young child is being directly disobedient in that moment. If giving them a verbal direction does not seem to address them most of the time then you, as the parent, need to find another way to communicate to the child that forks must stay on the table.

What you may need to do is a combination of a visual cue card (more on visual schedules and cue cards later) that displays your "set the table" picture along with helping the child by showing and speaking "forks on the table." When that is done, redirect them to an appropriate activity. You may need to repeat this. The important thing is that if your child is a visual and/or physical learner that you have to address the need for the forks staying on the table besides just a spoken word. I'm not saying don't verbalize, because your toddler is using a combination of learning types and honestly - he has to learn to talk! Just realize that your "no meaning no" might have to be explained to him in a different way.

Not all negative behavior is done for negative reasons. Much of it is for learning purposes, as frustrating as it is for you :-) And, yes, some of it is to see what your response is going to be to them. Are you going to set limits? Are you going to make them stick to them? Will you earn their respect? These are the questions that toddlers are also looking for answers to. My point is that you will find that you will gain more obedience and less stress as you discover how to best effectively communicate to your child rather than insist on first time obedience to verbal commands only.

1 comment:

Tara said...

Interesting... we studied learning styles in some of my education classes- it's amazing how each kid so different. So good to keep in perspective. I haven't even really thought ahead to the whole toddler/discipline realm... probably should before I'm in it!

Glad you are on blogger now! So did you do babywise with your kids? Did you have them cry it out? I am at a loss! I want to do what's best for her, but I don't really know what that is anymore, re: getting her to sleep, and staying asleep. She has never fallen asleep on her own, but until now has slept okay once she's down.

Wow, this is a long comment. :-) If you have a chance, I'd love to hear your sleep experiences via email! tara@adamandtara.net